Today’s post, another word for annoyed, is brought to you by a book that I never thought I would review: the thesaurus. Specifically, the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus.
A thesaurus is a book that helps you look up a word, and then find words that are similar in meaning. Not too thrilling, right? But if you’ve ever heard anyone complaining that a writer is using rusty, cliched language, those writers might benefit from a book like this.
Let me give you an example of the least you need to know about a thesaurus.
I’m going to look up the word annoyed. Here’s the thesaurus entry:
adjective: the debate moderator was clearly annoyed, IRRITATED, cross, angry, vexed, exasperated, irked, piqued, displeased, put out, disgruntled, chagrined, nettled, in a bad mood, in a temper; informal aggravated, peeved, miffed, riled; teed off, ticked off, sore, bent out of shape.
Now that you could find in any thesaurus. What makes the Writer’s Thesaurus so much fun (yes, I said it) and so useful is everything else included.
A panel editors contributed over 200 “mini-essays” on words that they thought were worth examining. The authors:
- David Auburn
- Michael Dirda
- David Lehman
- Stephen Merritt
- Francine Prose
- Zadie Smith
- Jean Strouse
- David Foster Wallace
- Simon Winchester
I’ll admit that I bought this book after DFW’s name on the cover.
Every time I have looked up a word I have wound up reading one of these mini-essays, although some of them aren’t miniature. David Foster Wallace’s entry on the word “hairy” take up a column and a quarter.
These are essays on words that the editors think are often misused, not used often enough, or simply worth calling attention to.
Guidelines for how specific words should and should not be used, and how their meanings have changed. “Impact,” for instance, or “gay.”
Easily confused words
For instance, “immoral” and “amoral”
This is my favorite feature after the mini-essays. Here is how the continuums work:
At one end we have the word “impartial.” At the other, the word “biased.” Those two words are opposites. On page 456 of the Thesaurus, these two words are placed at the top and bottom of a box and separated by over 50 words, including “unemotional,” which resides halfway between them in terms of meaning.
This is illuminating for anyone who wants to use precisely the right word for any occasion, and it’s something I don’t do often enough.
The end of the book contains the following sections, which aren’t as fun as the rest of the book, but are useful as a double-checking device.
- Rules of English: Understanding Grammar
- Guide to Spelling
- Guide to Capitalization and Punctation
- Proofreader’s Marks
- Writing Prompts
If you’re a writer I hope I’ve won you over to the glories of the OAWT. If you love words I think you’ll love this book.
If you’re a perverse specimen like yours truly, and the thought of browsing through a book of synonyms and antonyms sounds enjoyable, this will be a treat for you.
If I could only have two books on writing I’d choose Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and this one.